Maintaining proper dental and oral hygiene is an essential part of your overall health and well-being. Conversely, poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, alveolar bone loss, and ultimately tooth loss. Compromised oral health, especially for an extended period of time, has even been linked with an increased risk of developing other serious health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. With so much at stake, then, how can you protect yourself against the common pitfalls leading to such serious health issues? This article will help answer that question as we consider the most common causes of serious dental issues and how best to avoid them.
The CDC notes dental cavities are the most common chronic disease among youth ages 6 to 19 and NBC reports an alarming 91% of American adults between 20 and 64 are affected by tooth decay. Sadly, too many people never even see it coming until it is nearly too late, even when their teeth had been trying to warn them for months. Tooth decay is the softening and eventual breakdown of your tooth enamel the hard, protective outer layer of your teeth and refers to the damage of the structure of the tooth caused by acids. This loss of tooth structure is known as acid erosion and occurs when plaque bacteria break down and digest carbohydrates (sugars) in your mouth. If this loss of minerals from the enamel is left untreated, a cavity (small hole in the tooth) can eventually occur. Without professional treatment, these holes tend to grow larger over time and eventually may end up destroying the entire tooth and surrounding tissue.
Not brushing your teeth regularly between meals allows a sticky film of bacteria known as plaque to form and build up on your teeth. When left untreated, irreparable damage may be caused to the enamel, and in time may ultimately lead to the permanent loss of gum tissue, bone, and teeth. That is why it is so important to brush your teeth regularly after every meal and floss at least once a day, in order to thoroughly remove all food particles and lingering sugars. When not removed on a regular basis, the plaque adheres to your teeth and continues to build up and harden over time, often turning into a more resistant substance called tartar. Also known as dental calculus, tartar is a crusty deposit that can trap stains on the teeth and cause discoloration. It creates a strong bond that can only be removed by a dental professional. Since sugar attracts harmful bacteria and lowers your mouth’s pH, it is therefore a major contributing factor to tooth decay and strongly recommended that one limits their intake of sugary snacks and drinks.
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